Saturday, 12 December 2015

The second, annual, fast becoming traditional, J2H Christmas special.

As with last years offering, it's not for the little ones.
Plenty of sweary fucking words and some Nazis.
Merry Christmas my arse, I pray God it's my last.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Once upon a time there was a tavern.

I thought I'd be good at being a grown up, once upon a time.

Like all fairy tales, turns out it was pure fantasy. I didn't do bad, for a while. I bought a house while many of my friends were still on their YTS courses, I had a lovely motorbike and a sexy car and I went to work in a suit. But I was never really happy.

I suppose it was just nerves, maybe I was amazed at my good luck and couldn't quite believe it. I think I was always scared I would lose it all, that I wasn't really worthy and sooner or later someone would surely notice, bringing the whole charade crashing down. Slowly, I dismantled the fledgling life I'd built and spent as much time having as much fun as I could.

And it was the late eighties and the early nineties, there was a lot of fun I could have.

Then came children, punctuated by a marriage, and a vain attempt to act as if I were worthy of this honour. I attempted to pretend to be something I wasn't and wound up failing, becoming a man I neither was nor wanted to be. I enjoyed it, being a family man. I was lucky enough to have two sons, what man doesn't enjoy bringing up two sons?

It's fucking brilliant, I heartily recommend it.

My marriage didn't really collapse, it fizzled out slowly. I was immature and wasn't suited to it and, inevitably, I took on the role of absent parent.

MacDonald's on a Saturday, football on a Sunday, museums, cinemas and DVDs. I was better at being the absent parent, something to be thoroughly ashamed of, but eventually I failed at that too.

At some point during my transition from shit family man to bitter old bastard I began living a life that was something like a mixture of Withnail and I and Train Spotting. During this time I had a brief relationship which ended after, I think, I'd gotten myself pissed and disappeared off the face of the earth for a day or two. It didn't matter, I'd given up on relationships and so it was easy to move on. Then I heard she was pregnant. Although I knew it was almost certainly my child, I'd discovered I'd not been the only man she'd slept with during what, if I stretched the maths enough, was the critical period. I got pissed again, for a very long time, and lied to myself.

Of course, chickens always wander back home come roosting time. Although I've never met my daughter, she did contact me a few years back. She is both beautiful and bright, the image of my own mother when she was the same age.

Unfortunately, I wasn't any good at being that kind of parent either (No matter what those American sit-coms tell you, it's not all loft apartments and baseball mitts) and so, aged forty six, I have three children and two grandchildren that I never see, along with a mother and sibling whose life I am also absent from.

The separation came slowly, so slowly I didn't really notice it. During the time I was losing contact with everyone I had a few problems, some quite challenging, and have spent much of the last three or four years struggling with one thing or another. That which should have caused me heartache sat on the back burner and eventually became just how things are.

Last week, contact was made. It was quite a shocker. A comment on a blog post, one of the many entries that mention my children fondly, from a member of my family. I snorted derision and deleted the comment. But I couldn't stop thinking about it.

I wondered why my initial reaction had been such that I had immediately gone on the defensive without having felt a pang of guilt or moment of sorrow. Surely I should? I'm an emotional guy, after all. I cried at a Danny DeVito movie the other day, for goodness sake. So I gave the situation a good coat of thinking about. Maybe the person that left the enquiry will check back and see this, maybe they stumbled across the blog they commented on accidentally and wont ever see another post, but here's what I came up with, just in case.

Please bear in mind, you're only getting my side and for all you know I could be a right lying bastard, but I'm not. You can ask Robert DeNiro, he'll tell you I'm as honest as the day is long.

The longer the daylight, the less I do wrong. [Thank you, Suggs]

Don't ask Dustin Hoffman, he tells lies. He's still angry at me for getting sand in his Vaseline when we went to Formby.

So, back to my side...

As the fractures developed and my family became more and more distant, they began in-fighting and one or two tried to drag me into situations I had no connection with or interest in. When I wouldn't agree with whatever point they were making some spitefully told me what other family members thought or had said. 

I'm glad they did.

I discovered I'd been accused of something really quite horrid and, rather than anyone tell me, it had been decided that if I were to be given a particular decision to make I would have decided upon the course of action they decided I would decide on. Maybe they were right and maybe they were wrong, but I wasn't very well and, by then, I just couldn't be arsed correcting them. As anyone who actually knows me will tell you, I am a stubborn bastard and, though I'm not proud of it, I unconsciously said "fuck 'em" and got on with things. Not over night, there was a period of mourning, a feeling of loss, a couple of years of crossed fingers on father's day and a few tears over messages received but I'd become poor and hungry, those sensations muffled all else. Anger and self righteousness, I discovered, feels very much like hunger.

I shouldn't have deleted the comment, things like that shouldn't go unaddressed. I should have replied, but I didn't.

So, here is the next best thing, an apology for deleting in haste and a blog dedicated to answering, that wont get shared by me and may quite possibly go unread by the questioner. It's the best I can do.

I have no excuses. I could have tried harder, not focused on the things I focused on, but
I didn't. That was a mistake and I apologise. I can do no more.

Pertinent to the continued separation, I have my own questions, although mine are rhetorical.

  • When I had my heart attack, where were any of you?
  • In the middle of the night, when I wished I still lived in a high rise flat so I could throw myself out of the window and escape the pain I was in from the nerve damage in my knee, when my screams caused the neighbours to complain, where were you?
  • When I sat alone in the waiting room at Salford Royal before the doctor could tell me how much damage my lungs had suffered, where were you?
  • When I had to wrap my foot in plastic bags, socks and rags and hold it in place with gaffer tape because my only pair of shoes had one sole between them, where were you?
  • When I wore the one soled pair of shoes to walk thirteen miles in the rain to collect a food parcel after not eating for four days and only eating sporadically for several months prior, where were you?
  • When an elderly lady in a Salvation Army uniform held me while I sobbed after she turned up unexpectedly at my door and gave me the ingredients for Christmas Lunch, where were you?
  • When I was scared, where were you?

I'd watched you all, for a while, keeping an eye on things. It's not difficult, in these wondrous times, to do so. It might be a bit creepy, granted, but I had the best intentions. Everyone of you, thankfully, were having a great time and doing more than fine without my ham-fisted, half-arsed help. Eventually, I stopped checking. I was busy. I'm sorry. In my defence, I'm of little practical usefulness these days anyway.

When I mention my family fondly, write about good times or bad, there is no pretence. Those memories are from a time when my love wasn't in doubt by anyone. It was real, and continues to be. I have little else, I won't be allowing anyone to refuse me access to those happy snippets of my uneventful existence that preceded this portion.

The years of "fun" in the late eighties and early nineties must surely have shortened the functioning lifespan of my long term memories, they'll be gone soon enough and then I'll just blog about which soup I had for lunch or how my home-help steals my tea bags. 

And I'll have some nice memories to revisit if I scroll back on my blog far enough. 

If my prostitution of the past offends anyone, then maybe anyone'd be better served not reading my nonsense? 

They should probably steer clear of YouTube too.

Some love is unconditional, the spring doesn't run dry. When no one takes a sip from the stream the spring water eventually joins the river and is lost, but it's still there, somewhere. Lost, but not wasted. Nothing we enjoy giving is ever wasted. 

I sincerely hope that all of you reading and all those I mention in these blatherings flourish and live long, happy, fulfilling lives. Take care.


Thursday, 3 December 2015

Black cocks and tatty tits.

My high school was massive.

At some point in the early 80s the head of our sports department was becoming increasingly sick of his wards standing on the touchline with their hands down their shorts complaining it was too cold, with hacking smoker's coughs punctuating their expletive peppered entreaties.

And the boys he had to endure were no better.

He came up with one of those rare things, a solution to a problem that was welcomed by all. He called his master-plan the "elective initiative".

It sounded cool and was even cooler.

Electives were what we could choose to do instead of learning to dodge around dog shit at high speed on an inclined football pitch, the result of our school having been built on a hill. The teachers came up with a short-list of activities and, to everyone's surprise, there were some pretty good options on there.

Through my last two years of school I spent a couple of afternoons a week doing and learning things I wanted to do and things I was interested in learning about. Sailing and canoeing, rock climbing and abseiling. I became a fencer (of the fully buckled swash variety), a toxophilite and much more besides.

And I learnt what a toxophilite was.

One day we arrived half an hour late back to school after a hard afternoon capsizing Toppers on Rivington Pike, a brief but powerful downfall of snow having brought the motorway to a near standstill. My school bag had gone missing whilst I was out on the water pretending to be a pirate and I'd been provided with a Kwik-Save carrier bag to cram my wet clothes into for my journey home. The bag had a little rip in it. It was a shit bag.

As I crossed the main road from our school gates I spotted a gang of lads from the neighbouring school sat on the wall of the park. Our schools were forever fighting each other and I jokingly said to the only other of my schoolmates that had left by the same gate as I, "Look, we're going to get battered now".

I really didn't think we would. I'd done nothing to these chaps, had never clapped eyes on a single one of them in my life before, why would we?

As I crossed the road and stepped onto the pavement the little rip in the shit bag became larger, reaching it's event horizon and tearing itself in two, depositing my wet clothes in the crisp, white snow. I stopped to pick my things up as my schoolmate walked on.

I saw two of the boys from the other school jump down from the park wall and jump him from behind, dragging him to the floor and beginning to administer a damn good kicking. Two on one, that wasn't fair. Like a complete knob head I ran, arms flailing and notions of a heroic and righteous battle ahead filling my head, to even the odds.

I completely disregarded the other eleven members of the neighbouring school's assembled war party who hadn't joined the fracas. Yet.

I remember a hand on my shoulder, then I was on the floor and could see my schoolmate fleeing down the hill. Doc Martin boots rained down on my face, chest and stomach. Toe caps mashed my testicles into my pelvis. I curled into a ball and tried to roll away.

As I rolled onto my right side a blue Ford Cortina mounted the pavement. It skidded in the snow, snow that was now scarlet with my blood, and the tyre came to a halt within a few inches of my shattered nose and cheekbones. I rolled away from the car, driven on purpose into the crowd of feral school kids by a man who made the decision that yes, he might kill me but if he didn't I was surely to die. He later told the police the attackers were taking it in turns to run up and jump, stamping on my head with two feet. As I rolled back onto my left the last of the attackers decided to give me one for the road. He aimed a foot at my face and swung.

I have no idea how but I caught his foot and held it, managing to struggle to my feet. His face changed from a contorted grimace of hatred to a picture of pure terror, he looked so young as I head-butted him. I was red with my own blood, my shattered face already swelling and the wounds wide and raw. I roared and he began to sob and plead through the mixture of our blood that surrounded his mouth and nose, mine dark and lumpy and his bright and frothy. I don't think I cared.

That's the last thing I remember before waking up in the back of my sports teacher's sports car and apologising for the blood on his seats, then I was in hospital.

I gained quite a reputation, returning to school within a few days with battle scars that brought forth promises of retribution from boys who, until this point, hadn't even liked me and made the girls either cry or swoon. I'd have made full use of the latter effect were it not that my genitals were now black and, although three times their more usual size, really rather tender.

And just because that's the way life pans out for me, the swelling went far earlier than the pain. The whole kit and caboodle was both pretty much non-functional and aesthetically un-pleasing until well into the new year.

I had a new party trick, though. My nose was now sideways across my face and would remain so for a year before I could get it fixed. If I closed my right (Or, to be pedantic, "bottom") nostril and sucked hard through my left (Top?) nostril I could make a noise similar to that which the comms system on the Star Ship Enterprise made when a call came through.

No one was charged. The police said they couldn't put any one injury down to any one assailant. That made my parents angry, but I wasn't bothered. Many of those lads had already been on the receiving end of violence done in my name but without my prior knowledge. This, of course, led to more gangs waiting for our pupils in the park, more running battles across the pitch and putt, more fights, more stitches, more shattered jaws. Blood spattered jumpers in the noble grey of our school or the shitty blue of theirs littered the hedgerows.

My mashed face wasn't the catalyst for this spate of violence, our two schools had been involved in fights for decades, I was just the first victim of this most recent escalation. My injuries were still raw, my nose still whistled and the left side of my jaw would occasionally drop out if I tried to say a word that began with a "P". I was immature, I'd been hurt and my nice persona was still decades from perfection. I rejoiced in the stories of another settled score and I joined in wholeheartedly whenever a fight broke out at the bus stop that both sets of pupils had to use. No one, not even me, cared whether members of the original hunting party were the ones on the receiving end. More innocents were hurt on both sides, more victims became aggressors, more comrades joined both sides and more anger resulted.

Many years later I discovered I was working alongside one of the chaps from the original hunting party during a chance conversation in a building site crew cabin in Birmingham. Up until that point the chap in question and I had got along swimmingly, both he and I being from the same home town and being of a similar age. We'd spent nights in the pub together, covered for one and other at work and mocked the accents of those around us. He mocked my big nose and I mocked his lisp. A lisp that he hadn't had for the first fifteen years of his life but, it turned out, that had arrived after he'd bitten off a portion of his tongue when head-butted, by a boy with a bloodied pulp where a face had recently been, on a snowy street corner in Salford two decades earlier. He didn't laugh when he told us the story. The passage of years hadn't changed his tale into a clever, funny tale. He described himself as a coward, said he'd joined in right at the end and had deserved what he got. The whole story bookended by two very different shitbags.

Maybe he'd recognised me, maybe he was confessing. Whether he was or not, the remorse was certainly there. His leathery face did a fine job of remaining neutral, but was betrayed by his watery eyes.

I didn't tell him. I no longer cared. I'd bought a car with the compensation, had my nose fixed (fixed as in straightened, to this day it no longer works, but I can now breath through my left ear. An anomaly that has made me even more popular with the ladies than the big, black cock of '85) and had briefly had my pick of the girls at school.

He'd got a lisp leading to a new nickname, "Lizard".

He'd been that kid that tried to get one last kick in. Unlucky number thirteen. The child that might have killed me, that may have dealt me the camel's back breaking straw of a blow and ended my time on this earth but instead led to years of hatred and an escalation in violence until no pupil from either school was safe. Vendettas were formed that lasted long into adulthood. This, of course, would still have been the case had he killed me and not bitten off his own tongue. It had been a lose, lose situation from it's very inception.

I didn't socialise with him after I'd found out who he was and he never asked why. We just settled into civility.

And let's not forget, I got a bright yellow, MKIII Escort out of it. Every cloud, and all that.

It had only hurt for a minute, but something like that can't be over in a minute. We don't let things like that be an end. Those things require a response. Someone hurts us, we hurt them, creating justice at the same time we create a new, injured party, who then seeks justice of his own.

If we decided something had to be done about world hunger but we couldn't figure out how and some bright spark said "lets make more people hungry and see if that helps" they'd be laughed out of the room. If we listened to them, we'd be adding to the problem. We're not so stupid.

It would seem, though, that violence is the one problem we treat with like. Tit for tat and an eye for an eye would leave the whole world full of tatty tits, though fortunately we'd not be able to look at them.

Fighting fire with fire, it must be remembered, at least briefly creates a much greater fire. That's why firemen use hoses and not flame-throwers and why today, given our nation's decision regarding military action in a land thousands of miles away, we're all just a smidgeon less safe.